Regular readers of this column will have come to expect reviews of restaurants that are outstanding in some way.
At La Petite Dakar, it was owner Bintou and her infectious passion for the Senegalese food of her childhood. (Sad to say she has had to close her doors.) At Wheelies Motorcycle Café, it remains the renegade biker ambiance. At Sült Pierogi Bar and at Chuck’s Burger Bar, it is the re-creation of something far too common in a profusion of uncommon ways. And of course, it is always about local restaurateurs who share a passion for flavourful food. It seems to me this passion often expresses itself best in the tiniest places.
Enter Ruth and Dean.That’s Susannah Ruth Bryan and Robert Dean Smith, a husband-and-wife team who launched Ruth and Dean in Vancouver, but have since moved here. The place is not as wide as two Smart cars with their bumpers touching. It has five tables, one of which sits four, the rest sit only two. Its sparse menu, written with black marker on a roll of craft paper that hangs on the wall, can be read easily from all 13 seats, and can be easily rewritten as needed to accommodate variances of price, quality and availability of ingredients. On the day of my visit there were only six options.
The window sign identifies Ruth and Dean as a “Luncheonette + Baked Goods.” Luncheonette perhaps because it offers only a late breakfast and lunch service (Tuesday to Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m., weekends 9 a.m.-3 p.m., closed Mondays). Or maybe because all of its offerings can be quickly prepared and easily carried away by office workers and retail staff on their lunch breaks. The “Baked goods” need no better description than the photo attached.
To this sign on the window should probably be added, “+ Passion.”
Take my grilled cheese sandwich. It is not easy to turn something commonplace into something that deserves a magazine article in its honour. This was far from the processed cheese on Wonder Bread that I grew up with.
Dean placed oodles of gooey mozzarella and parmesan between two slices of coarse brown multigrain bread, but had he stopped there, it would still be only an upgraded sandwich. So he added small amounts of roasted sweet potato, sautéed kale, bacon and a pear chutney. Despite these additions, this sandwich oozes cheese, but it boasts an innovative complex of complimentary flavours that lift it onto a whole new plane of deliciousness.
It came served with the soup of the day, which was a creamy roasted cauliflower drizzled with olive oil and topped with a cluster of whole wheat croutons and a sprinkling of fresh mixed herbs. If I must complain, it will not be to say that the soup was too hot. It was, but soup cools. Rather, it was my cappuccino that was too cool.
With so few places to sit, and the lunch rush forming before the order counter, I hastened to be on my way, but I will return.